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2009 Calvin Awards: Best Director

February 13, 2009

Which Hawaiian Island should I buy first?

Our Best Director category is populated by a host of talented dudes (sorry, no women make the list this year). From super hero movies to animated flicks to character studies and dark comedy, all of the helmers in our top ten were responsible for a wide variety of films, taking their own individual opportunities to shine by creating masterful works of art.

The winner of the Calvin Award for Best Director is Christopher Nolan, who continues to do an exemplary job in bringing Gotham City to life. He does a fine job of making a grimy Gotham match up to the personalities of the characters in the film, most of whom live in darkness in one way or another, whether they're good guys or bad. Nolan's vision for The Joker surely set in motion one of the most iconic portrayals of a villain we're likely to see onscreen. There is a tremendous amount of action in The Dark Knight, but it all feels under tight control. Ultimately, Nolan has created not just one of the finest comic book films ever, but also one of the greatest crime movies in history. We like Nolan a lot, apparently, as he previously placed fifth in this category for the 2005 release Batman Begins and also fifth for the 2001 film Memento.

Our runner-up is director Andrew Stanton, who is making quite a name for himself in the animation industry. Previously, Stanton placed in fifth (I sense a trend) in this category for his work on Finding Nemo (2003). As he did in that film, Stanton created a viable world in WALL-E where viewers could be fully immersed in the experience that the story provided. The crew at Pixar is truly a creative, talented bunch, and along with John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Brad Bird, Stanton is a big reason that the company is so reliable. People trust Pixar because of these guys.




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Third place goes to Danny Boyle, who has been cleaning up at various award ceremonies this year for his work on Slumdog Millionaire. With a story that is told in a unique style - flashing from the present to the past and back to the present again, Boyle could have had a rough go of making the transitions seamless and finding actors up to the roles. Instead, he was able to pull fantastic performances from actors of all ages and experience levels, all while keeping the audience highly involved in an emotionally impacting tale.

Next up in fourth is Darren Aronofsky, who took a break from challenging fare like Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain to tackle a simple sports story and character portrait instead. And though I call it simple, this is by no means a derogatory comment about The Wrestler's greatness. Instead, what Aronofsky was able to accomplish is impressive, as he has clearly paid a great deal of attention to the realities of professional wrestling and it feels as though the movie he has created is very respectful both of the sport, the athletes and even the fans. In a lesser director's hands, The Wrestler could have felt formulaic and trite. With Aronofsky at the helm, it becomes a poignant piece that goes in directions one might never expect.


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